RSPH has welcomed a new comprehensive evidence review on e-cigarettes published by Public Health England (PHE). The report reflects an up-to-date evidence base that is increasingly pointing in the same direction: not only that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking, but also that it is helping increasing numbers of smokers to quit.

Though the number of UK vapers – currently almost 3 million – has plateaued since 2015, the proportion of vapers who continue to smoke has fallen year on year, dropping below 50% for the first time last year. It is now estimated that at least 20,000 additional successful quits per year are attributable to e-cigarettes, a striking illustration of their potential value to the public’s health.

Additionally, PHE’s new review has found no evidence to support the concern that e-cigarettes may act as a gateway to smoking, with smoking rates among young people continuing to fall and e-cigarette used confined almost exclusively to those who have already smoked.

However, misconceptions around vaping remain stubbornly prevalent among the public. Most worryingly, the proportion of the public who believe e-cigarettes are at least as dangerous as smoking continues to rise, reaching 26% of adults last year. This same trend is seen among smokers, which is of serious concern given the strong correlation between perceptions of harm from e-cigarettes and a decreased likelihood of trying vaping.

Other key updates since PHE’s landmark 2015 evidence review include:

  • The implementation of the EU Tobacco Products Directive in 2016, which now provides a comprehensive regulatory framework with standards on the safety and quality of e-cigarettes
  • Positive developments overseas, including countries like Canada and New Zealand moving away from e-cigarette prohibition towards regulatory positions closer to that of the UK

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, said: “The past few years has seen a growing and welcome consensus on vaping among the UK health community, with prestigious organisations such as the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of General Practitioners, and British Medical Association all joining in recognition of the public health potential of e-cigarettes. PHE’s new evidence review further strengthens this consensus.

“Nonetheless, with many smokers now incorrectly believing vaping is at least as dangerous as smoking, it is clear there is vital work to be done in better communicating these positive messages to the public. For anyone who has struggled to quit smoking, we strongly recommend switching to an e-cigarette as it could substantially improve your chances of success – especially if combined with professional support from your local stop smoking service.”